In one of the coolest recent discoveries about the human body, you have taste buds in your lungs. But before you reach for an expensive cigar to test this out, there are a few significant differences between the taste buds in the lungs compared to the ones on your tongue. Not only that, but they may also have therapeutic benefits.
When I first heard this I instantly wanted there to be an ice cream flavored can of air. All the taste with zero calories and fat. It’s the perfect solution. Enjoy the taste, and stay slim. But then I continued to read, and the initial excitement of ice cream flavored air turned to a brief disappointment, before it transformed into wonder and amazement at the discovery.
So scientists get to do some pretty weird things, and make some unusual discoveries. The guys from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins stumbled upon the odd location for taste buds when they were looking at lung tissue from mice and humans. They found that the taste receptors, while essentially similar to those found on our tongues, detect things differently, and react to the different tastes in an unexpected way.
The taste buds in your lungs are not clustered together as they are on the tongue. They also are not connected to the brain, so they can’t send any signals about the flavor entering them. They allso only detect bitterness, where the ones on the tongue can generally detect sour, sweet, bitter, salty and savory. So if they are not connected to the brain, and they can only detect bitterness, what are they there for?
This is the cool part. The scientists working had a theory that since most poisonous plants are bitter, it would trigger a fight or flight response in the subject. The theory was turned on its head when the complete opposite happened. They found that some bitter flavors relaxed the lung tissue, and opened the airways far better than any known drugs that treat asthma and other pulmonary diseases. The scientists are unsure if the taste buds on the lungs may be an evolutionary trait.
It is worth pointing out though, don’t ditch the proven medical treatment for asthma in favor of a can of bitterness. The research is still in its infancy.